A Selective Impairment in Attentional Disengagement from Erotica in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

This is the promised follow-up to last week's paper on the Emotional Attentional Blink in subjects with Generalized Anxiety Disorder! This paper by Dr. Bunmi O. Olatunji, Bethany G. Ciesielski, and Dr. David H. Zald addresses the EAB in subjects with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 

 Taken from the paper

Taken from the paper

Summary: A great deal of this paper is very similar to the last paper we covered. This paper also used a typical Emotional Attentional Blink paradigm: an RSVP stream with a single target and an emotional distractor between 2 and 8 landscape distractors before the target. The experiment had two experimental groups: subjects with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a comparable control group. Each performed the described task, and the experimenters compared the groups' performances. The OCD group had a significantly larger EAB in response to erotic distractors and at lag 8 than the control group. Dr. Olatunji theorizes that this increased EAB is the result of a general inability to disengage attention from emotional distractors due to their elevated salience as a result of OCD. 

 Taken from the paper

Taken from the paper

The Take-Away: The Emotional Attentional Blink is different in subjects with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, mostly likely as a result of an increased inability to disengage attentional resources from the emotional distractor. 

My Thoughts: This is another great paper, with definitive results, clear writing, and a simple conclusion. This paper once again points to the inability to disengage attention from emotional targets as the result of a larger EAB, which is logical. To put it simply (and in many more words), subjects with OCD were not able to stop involuntarily giving their attention to the emotional distractor. Why is this important? Well, a popular theory on attention is that there are two stages of stimulus processing: a first step that essentially chooses what to process, and a second step that actually processes a stimulus to the point of perception. Many stimuli can enter the first stage, but can really only enter Stage 2 if given resources in Stage 1. Therefore, if the subject with OCD cannot give any resources to the target in Stage 1, then there is no way that the target can be processed to the point of perception in Stage 2.

The EAB is theoretically the result of involuntarily giving too many Stage 1 resources to the emotional distractor to be able to give enough Stage 1 resources to the target to process it properly. Therefore, it follows that a disorder that heavily involves fixation and sensitivity to emotional content would demonstrate a larger EAB if this model holds true.